On Reading ‘Listen, World!: How the Intrepid Elsie Robinson Became America’s Most-Read Woman’ by Allison Gilbert and Julia Scheeres

Elsie Robinson (1883-1956) was an unforgettable writer whose nationally syndicated column “Listen, World!” spanned over 30 years and garnered more than 20 million readers. Yet, her legacy has not met with the justice of recognition, forgotten in the careless oblivion under the shadows of her contemporary starry women writers. Nelie Bly was sensational as an undercover in a mental asylum and an ambitious challenger to Phileas Fogg of Around the World in 80 days. But Elsie Robinson was a champion of writers whose heartfelt writings touched the finer tissues of the millions of hearts who found solace and support in her words. She was honest, and her words were real, alive, and alike, and there was none other like her.


Robinson was my kind of model writer who wrote from her experience and heart. Edgar Allan Poe would praise a type of writer with a passion for intoxicating the heart and the truth to satisfy reason. The fates had let her go through trials of life, but her mind exceeded the compass of her wheels. She didn’t mind working as a miner as a single mother before a tide of fortune finally took her to her literary career in the Oakland Tribune. While her peers and contemporary writers took the naval-gazing, angst-ridden narratives a la mode, Robinson used her writing to communicate with readers seeking elbow room in her column. They recognized themselves in the plight of a stranger and found commonalities in it, making them feel that they were not uniquely flawed. I guess that’s why Robinson didn’t get recognition as much as her contemporary peers, who enjoyed the stardom of literary legacy. She wanted to tell her woebegone readers their problems were not theirs but yours, mine, and ours.


Like Kurt Vonnegut, Robinson wanted to let readers know that to express ourselves in the form of art is to allow our souls to grow, however poor or good, by encouraging us to write our own columns. In that regard, blogging is a great platform to express one’s artistic self without fear of rejection or ridicule, freed from the devil’s advocates of literary purists intent upon finding grammar faults in anyone’s writings. To that end, Robinson is a scintillating writer with an eye for truth and a heart for passion – like the sun in the twilight, remitting the splendor while retaining magnitude, dazzling the eyes of the beholders with the hearts’ contents. As a result, Robinson has become one of my darling writers.